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**Warning: Spoilers for both book and movie!**
Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham (1946)
Nightmare Alley directed by Guillermo del Toro (2021)
This is the second adaptation, the first one was released in 1947. I had planned on talking about that one here as well but turns out I had a lot to say about this newest version. I didn’t want this to be crazy long, so I decided to stick with just the 2021 movie. Maybe later I’ll have a separate video for the 1947 movie.
William Lindsay Gresham
I want to talk about the author because his personal life plays a big part in this book.
To start, Gresham met and befriended a man who had been a sideshow carnival worker and Gresham was fascinated with the stories the man shared. One story was about what carny’s call the “geek show”. (By the way, this book is the first time a lot of these terms were found in writing.) The geek is a man who pretends to be animalistic, cuddling snakes as if they are his children, biting heads of chickens and other such antics. The man who takes on the role of the geek is always a drunk who is desperate enough to act in such a way to ensure he gets his drinks. Gresham said of this, “the story of the geek haunted me. Finally, to get rid of it, I had to write it out. The novel, of which it was the frame, seemed to horrify readers as much as the original story had horrified me.”
Gresham himself was an alcoholic and had two marriages that ended in divorce. His own parents also divorced, which was rare in the ‘20’.s The character of Stan comes from a broken family so I can’t help but think that was inspired by his own upbringing.
After his time as a volunteer medic in the Spanish Civil war, he reached a point where he attempted suicide by hanging himself. It didn’t work for whatever reason, and Gresham later went on to be an editor for a magazine and married his third wife, the poet Joy Davidman. He continued to struggle with depression.
Before, during and after the fame of Nightmare Alley (which is dedicated to Joy) he drank excessively and was a serial cheater. Gresham sought to find purpose and meaning in life, but couldn’t find anything, religion or otherwise, that satisfied him. He saw a psychologist and tried out different spiritual methods but found most of them to be phony’s. He was even interested in Scientology in the early days, before declaring that one a “spook racket” just like the others. Makes sense that in Nightmare Alley you have Stan who pretends to give people spiritual healing in a religious way; then you have Dr. Ritter who is someone who is supposed to help people mentally, but she too isn’t a good person.
His wife was also trying to figure out the greater purpose in life and though she was an atheist, she became interested in the writings of Christian author C.S. Lewis.
She started a correspondence with the author and even went on a trip to meet him in England. She had her cousin stay at the house to watch the kids and such. While she was gone, the cousin and Gresham had an affair and claimed to be in love.
When Joy returned, none of them could afford to move out, so the three lived together in this awkward situation.
Long story short, Joy and Gresham divorced and Davidman and Lewis were married. (Their relationship has been written about may times and there is even a movie about them called Shadowlands).
Gresham started having bad health, he was diagnosed with cancer and started to go blind. He ended up committing suicide at age 53 by overdosing on pills. Nightmare Alley was his biggest success, and it was even made into a movie soon after he released the book. Sadly though, he died penniless and alone.
Thoughts on the book
My favorite thing about this book is how it begins and ends with the “geek”. I loved how it came full circle with that. This is a book about people who aren’t able to let go of their past and aren’t able to rise above their station because they self-sabotage.
Stan is so prideful and loves pulling one over on those he considers ignorant, yet he himself is pulled into a con without even realizing it. He talks repeatedly about how money is all that matters in life and that you can’t trust other people. Even though he succumbs to lust, he finds sex to be a filthy act. This again goes back to his childhood and he never got past his first “experience” with sex in which it was dirty and wrong.
He thinks little of Pete, yet by the end he sinks even lower than Pete did.
Molly also is just drawn to what was familiar from her childhood. Her dad was an alcoholic, a gambler and slept around. Yet she loved him and looked up to him and therefore ends up with men that are like him. She is easily manipulated by Stan, even willing to have sex with stranger who is much older than herself in order to pull the con.
The climax of this book is when the con goes wrong. Once he sees Lilith for the last time, from there the book starts to drag out the ending. I guess it’s showing the descent of The Great Stanton as he lives life on the run and becomes a drunk. (After watching the movie, I’ve realized I actually like that the book tells of events between leaving Lilith and becoming a geek).
I did like the scenes when he tried to pull the cold reading on various people to get what he wants, but he just comes off as pathetic. He laments about life and how unfair it is, before being cut a break when some old carnies try to help him out.
By the end, he has been made into a geek. The lowliest of the low. Someone who is willing to be degraded in public, just to ensure he can get his booze.
The more I think about this book, the more the story grows in power and the more I like it.
Not an uplifting story by any means, but an important story to be read.
When I first saw Del Toro was adapting a movie from the book Nightmare Alley a few months back, I added it to my calendar. Because I knew I would read and watch it, I purposely looked up nothing about it (I didn’t even watch a trailer). When I went into the book, because of the title and because it was going to be a Del Toro movie, I assumed it was about monsters in some way, or at least some kind of otherworldly thing as most Del Toro movies are.
When I realized what it was about, I was surprised, but when you think about it, this is still a monster movie/book. Stan Carlisle is a monster who wants money, thinking that is what matters in life and that it will help him get the security he seeks and that people will admire him. He has a sad end, as most monsters do in the end of monster movies. Though Lilith can be seen as an even bigger monster, who totally gets away with it.
The movie though is two and a half hours long and if I’m being honest, there were times when I glanced at my watch. I wouldn’t say I was bored though; I was just curious how far into we were. And my hips were getting sore lol and I wanted to stand. The movie is a great adaptation though and I would recommend it!
Bradley Cooper is amazing as Stan Carlisle. Throughout the movie I was sunk into his performance. Then in the end scene, which we will talk about more in depth in a little bit, just blew me away. This role was originally supposed to go to Leo DiCaprio. DiCaprio would have been great I’m sure, but after seeing Cooper in this role it’s hard to picture someone else.
(If you want to check out another Bradley Cooper episode I have, here is a Limitless book vs movie!
Cate Blanchett is perfectly cast as Dr. Lilith Ritter. They really could not have picked anyone better for the role.
Rooney Mara plays innocent Molly. I think there were better choices out there, but Mara is good and conveys that innocence in the beginning. Her character does have an arc and she grows and learns to stand up for herself as time goes on.
Toni Collette is also a wonderful choice for Zeena. She isn’t in much, really just the first third, as is the case with most of the people from the carnival. But she is excellent.
Richard Jenkins plays the wealthy man Grindle, who is seeking peace over the guilt he feels about the death of his first love. I love Jenkins and didn’t even realize he was going to be in this, so that was a pleasant surprise. Though it wasn’t a pleasant surprise to see Cooper literally beat the nose off of Jenkins!
David Strathairn is in another fairly small role of Pete. I wanted to mention him though because he was great as Pete. A likeable guy, but one that couldn’t really be depended on because he was an alcoholic. Someone though who clearly had talent. As Stan says in the movie, He’s someone who had had his shot, but blew it basically. At least “blew it” in Stan’s sense of the phrase.
Willem Dafoe is in another brief role, the guy in charge of the carny, Clem Hoatley. He is very seedy here and is shown to be heartless. Though at the same time, in the carny they take care of each other. Other than the geek, who isn’t considered part of the crew but rather just another animal. He is also in the key scene where he tells Stan how a geek is made. In the book, Clem is again the one who tells him how he makes a geek, but it is right at the start of the book.
In the movie, the only time a ‘nightmare alley’ is mentioned is when Clem is telling Stan where he gets a geek. He says he finds them on nightmare alley, then lists other places. I’m assuming nightmare alley is said in a metaphorical way, and not a literal alley he calls nightmare alley that he gets them from. The movie also has a great scene that shows Stan running down a dark alley, which also seems to be a clear homeage to the title.
In the book, Stan’s nightmare alley is spoken of throughout the book. The first time he talks about it he is noticing how the people in the south want to go north and they all think that will solve their problems. Stan is thinking, “All of ’em want North, Stan thought. It was the dark alley, all over again. With a light at the end of it. Ever since he was a kid Stan had had the dream. He was running down a dark alley, the buildings vacant and black and menacing on either side. Far down at the end of it a light burned; but there was something behind him, close behind him, getting closer until he woke up trembling and never reached the light. They have it too— a nightmare alley…The North isn’t the end. The light will only move further on. And the fear close behind them.”
So, this “nightmare alley” represent people, specifically Stan, trying to reach something unattainable while trying to outrun his fears.
Fear is spoken of often and how you can use other people’s fears against them.
“You can control anybody by finding out what he’s afraid of” and “Fear is the key to human nature.” …The geek was made by fear. He was afraid of sobering up and getting the horrors. But what made him a drunk? Fear. Find out what they are afraid of and sell it back to them. That’s the key.”
When talking to Zeena and Pete and learning how to read people he learns that so often, people are having the same issues. You just make a broad guess based on the kind of person the mark appears to be, and more often than not, you’ll be right.
“Human nature is the same everywhere. All have the same troubles. They are worried. Can control anybody by finding out what he’s afraid of. Works with question-answering act. Think out things most people are afraid of and hit them right where they live. Health, Wealth, Love. And Travel and Success. They’re all afraid of ill health, of poverty, of boredom, of failure. Fear is the key to human nature. They’re afraid….”
People each want to think they are unique, so they don’t think that it was just a lucky guess, based on the fact that their stuggles are similar to others.
In the forward to this book, it reads, “Booze is so strong an element in the novel that it can almost be said to be a character, an essential presence like Fates in ancient Greek tragedy.” As said, Gersham struggled with alcohol, so it isn’t surprising that it is a key element to this story. In the movie, this is done a bit too obviously I thought. Stan is offered a drink two different times, and both times he makes a point to say he never drinks. This goes on longer when he talks to Dr. Ritter and they talk about why it is he doesn’t drink. When he does take a drink for the first time, it is very obvious. In the book, it was subtle. It is never said that Stan never drinks, it just gradually becomes more of a thing as the book goes along, which is more realistic when it comes to alcoholism, I think. Though in the movie when he drinks for the first time, I also seems symbolic of Lilith poisoning him in a way.
I love reading books about a addiction, and when I went into this book I had no idea that was going to play a part, so that was a pleasant surprise.
In the movie, early on Stan seems like a pretty likeable guy. He seems genuinely interested in Molly and we even see him being kind to the geek letting him smoke his cigarette. He also seems to give Pete the wood alcohol on mistake and isn’t even trying to get him to drink it, he just leaves it on the table after Pete asks him to get some for him.
In the book though, the reader never likes Stan much. As the book goes on, he becomes increasingly selfish and prideful and cruel and paranoid. But even early on, you never found him very likeable. One passage reading,
“Loneliness came over him, like an avalanche of snow. He was alone. Where he had always wanted to be. You can only trust yourself. There’s a rat buried deep in everybody and they’ll rat on you if they get pushed far enough. Every new face that showed up at the séances now seemed charged with suspicion and malice and sly knowledge. Could there be a cabal forming against him in the church?”
Speaking of church by the way, in the book Stan becomes registered as a reverend. So he holds these meetings in a house he has turned into a church and runs his business as a type of church. I thought it was interesting the movie kept the religious aspect of it out.
The movie does have Stan say the line, “Nothing matters in this…lunatic asylum of a world but dough.” Which is a quote from the book.
In the movie, Gindle has him take a lie detector test in order to make sure he isn’t a fake. In the book, he has this delectate scale and says if Stan can get the scale to move, he will believe him. They have it rigged in a way that would make it seemingly impossible for him to con them. Of course, he does find a way to con them and is able to get the scale to movie.
Lilith asks him how he did it, to which the book says, “The Rev. Carlisle laughed. It was something he very seldom did; but now he laughed in a high key and was still bubbling when he spoke. ‘I’ll tell you, doctor, as soon as we’ve got the chump cleaned. It’s a promise.’ ‘Very well. It was probably something ridiculous.’’
This line I’m including here because it made me think of the book The Prestige. There is a line from that book that says, “Magicians protect their secrets not because the secrets are large and important, but because they are so small and trivial. The wonderful effects created on stage are often the result of a secret so absurd that the magician would be embarrassed to admit that that was how it was done.”
The same here, where the power lays in not revealing how it was done because once you do, they are no longer impressed.
As Stan falls lower and lower, the book will still refer to him as “The Great Stanton”, showing how little he truly is despite having thought so much of himself.
In the movie, we see that Stan had been with his ailing father and tells the old man that he hates him and proceeds to open the window on the winter day and take the covers off the man. He then gets cold and dies, after which Stan burns the house and the body.
In the book, Stan had those feelings about his dad, how he hadn’t been “man enough” to keep his wife. The dad also kept pressing him to go to seminary and be a priest but young Stan just wanted to become a magician.
After Stan becomes a reverend (of sorts) he visits his dad, who has remarried. Things seem fine, but Stan turns his act on his dad. Acting like there is an animal spirit present, that needs to talk to them. Bringing up the death of his childhood dog which he suspects his dad beat to death when he heard his wife left him. After this he leaves his father and that’s the last we hear of him.
Stan and sex
Something that the movie leaves out is Stans weird relationship with sex. His first “experience” that really made an impact on him was when he was around ten. His dad was at work, and his mom went to her singing lessons (taught by a guy names Mark Humphries). Stan is out exploring and decides to head to a glade that he and his mom discovered a while back and she had called it her and Stan’s special place.
When he gets to the glade, he sees his mom there having sex with Humphries. Later, when the dad is accusing the mom of having an affair, she uses Stan to corroborate on a story with her, to show she wasn’t alone with Humphries.
This whole experience leads him to subconsciously think of sex as something filthy and “bad”. When he joins the carny, he is in his 21 and is still a virgin. He says how whenever he got close to making it with a girl, he would overthink it and for some reason just couldn’t follow through.
Zeena and Pete
When he meets Zeena, she is older than him and therefore take the lead when it comes to sex-which the movie shows.
However, unlike the movie, Stan keeps wanting to be with her, but their rendezvous aren’t often because she is married to Pete. One night, Stan decides to get Pete some alcohol (even though Zeena asks him to watch Pete and make sure he didn’t drink) hoping that Pete will pass out drunk and he will be able to spend the night with Zeena. He accidently gives Pete the wood alcohol, and later dies.
In the movie, he gives Pete the wood alcohol accidently similar to the book. However, in the movie he wasn’t hung up on Zeena and jealous of Pete like he was in the book. If anything, he subconsciously wanted Pete dead so he could have the little book Pete kept all his trade secrets in. There is also the correlation between Pete and his father, so maybe subconsciously wanting him dead because of that association.
In the movie, Stan seems to be interested in Molly right from the start and helps her improve her act and he seems to be trying to win her over. In the book, he knew Molly but never really noticed her. Then the night the cops try to shut the place down, he pulls the cold read on the cop, as shown in the movie. Everyone is so impressed and Molly is grateful because she was going to be arrest for indecent exposure. They end up having sex that night and he asks her to go away with him. Prior to this whole event, that had never really interacted much.
Molly and Stan
In the book, Molly was much more naïve and easily manipulated than she is in the movie. Early on in the movie she comes off young and innocent, but as things go on, she definitely grows. Whereas in the book, she does start to disbelieve all of Stan’s promises, but she is more gullible and sticks around even though he doesn’t treat her well.
Stan is always telling her they can get married and have kids after this or that happens. Once the thing happens, he will say, well know we need to wait till the other thing happens.
In the movie, he talks her into pretending to be the ghost of Dorrie, the woman who died getting an abortion of Grindle’s child when he was in college. In the movie, she writes him a letter telling him she’s leaving and won’t do it. He catches her before she leaves though and talks her into doing it, though she is clear this is the last thing then she’s leaving.
She shows up outside in Grindle’s garden, looking like Dorrie. Grindle runs up to her, even though the plan was for Stan to get him to kneel and pray and not approach her. He runs up to her though and hugs her at the waist. Molly doesn’t freak out, but is uncomfortable and tries to get away kind of. When Grindle sees her, he realizes It’s not actually Dorrie and he hits Molly. Stan then starts hitting Grindle and is violent and kills him. He then kills the Grindle’s bodyguard type guy by running him over. After this, Molly leaves him and we don’t know what happens to her.
In the book we see that she married a guy who gambles on horse races and they have a son. Basically, she marries someone very similar to her dad. She loves her dad and misses him, but from what we see of him in the flashbacks, he was kind of a sleazeball. But he was what Molly was familiar with, so that’s the man she seeks out.
In the book, he convinces Molly to pretend to be Dorrie. Things are taken a step further though. When Stan asks Lilith what Grindle ultimately wants, Lilith is like, what do you think, he’s a man. Insinuating he wants to have sex with her one last time. So Stan is able to convince Molly to pretend to be Dorrie and have sex with Grindle. After which she will “magically” go away and Grindle will be at peace. They have this elaborate set up in the house they use as their “church” and Molly appears, in a very magical way, and it is dim plus Grindle admits himself he has forgotten what Dorrie looks like. He believes it truly is her and Stan goes behind this partition thing while they have sex. When he sees them, he thinks how disgusting it is. Which, in this case, it is gross that the two of them are having sex and Stan setting up a situation like this is almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. He thinks sex is dirty and wrong, so he sets up this situation where it will be “sinful” and gross just as be thinks it is.
After they are done, Molly tries to get away, but Grindle hugs onto her and says he wants her to stay. Molly starts to freak out and stops the act and starts yelling for Stan and telling Grindle to get off her. Stan hits both Grindle and Molly, knocking them out, and he runs to Lilith.
Meanwhile, Molly comes to first and runs out. From there she goes to the hotel, gets on a bus and the next time we see her is years down the road with her now husband at the racetrack.
Stan and Lilith with Grindle
Talking about things out of order here, but after knocking out Molly and Grindle, Stan goes to Lilith and tells her what happened. He says Grindle will trace it back to Lilith, since she is the only one he told about the abortion. Turns out though, Grindle never directly told her about it, she just gathered that’s what happened based on what he did and didn’t say-and she was right. She tells Stan he is the only one in trouble and gives him the money he had given her to hold on to. He leaves and when he’s back at the hotel or somewhere, he opens the envelopes and sees they are a bunch of ones, which the movie shows. Though in the movie he opens it up right there in her office.
In the movie, after he sees she took the money, for the sake of the recording she acts like he has been hallucinating everything and they were never “in on” anything together. This happens in the book as well because he later goes back and confronts her and she tells him he made it up.
In the movie though, from here she shoots him, though it isn’t a major wound, and he is chased off by security.
Stand and Lilith
Going backward, in the movie, Stan and Lilith meet at one of his shows. She stands up and calls him and Molly out as using keywords. However, he disproves her (though not really, because she was right, but he is also really good at reading people even without the help of signals from Molly) and humiliates her. From there, she ends up giving him her card and he goes to see her and proposes they team up to con people. Since she is a psychiatrist, she knows everyone’s secrets.
In the book, he was having trouble sleeping and one of the people that attended his “church” had mentioned the doctor. He calls her and goes to see her in a professional way. Eventually they begin an affair and she helps him con Grindle.
At some point, near the end, but before the big climax, the book tells of her looking at Stans chart she has made, reading, “…an emotional barometric chart, marked with dates, showing a jagged rise and fall. It was an emotional diagram of Stanton Carlisle. She did not trust it entirely; but the curve had reached a high point, and on four other occasions such peaks had been followed by sudden drops into depression, instability, and black despair. Finally she put the folder away, undressed, and drew a tub of hot water into which she threw pine bath salts.”
I loved that Lilith ends up outsmarting Stan. He thinks so highly of himself, but he really isn’t that smart. Well, he is smart, but his pride gets in the way.
Speaking of him not being as smart as he thinks, in the book, when he is with Pete giving him the wood alcohol, he is asking Pete about the old days. Pete does a cold reading on him, and mentions a dog and a man whom Stan hates and wishes would die. Stan is totally drawn in. Pete sees he is taking it seriously and stops. Stan is embarrassed for having fallen for it when Pete tells him it’s easy because most men have complicated relationships with their dad and most boys have a dog around at some point in their lives. During shows, Stan will look around at the carnival crowd and see them just a marks and suckers. But really, he isn’t any smarter when you get down to it. The movie kind of touches on this, where Pete talks about getting “shut eye”. A term for when you are in too deep and start to believe the crap you peddle.
One more thing on Lilith though, in the movie she shows him all these scars she has. Saying it happened when she got figurately burned. We are never given any other detail on this and in the book this scene never happens.
By the way, Grindle doesn’t die in the book. He knows Stan is a fake of course, and Stan is constantly on the run because Grindle has man literally everywhere, trying to find him.
In the book, we also see through a newspaper announcement that Lilith is engaged to who I believe is Grindle. When he was in a fragile state and being humiliated by Stan, she must have seized her opportunity to manipulate him and “woo” him. He is old, so soon enough he will die and she will have his fortune.
Stan’s fall to Geek
When I first read the book, after the climax with Grindle and Lillith and everything, I thought it kind of dragged. However, I changed my mind and I like the events described between the climax and him becoming a geek. You see him just go lower and lower and just getting delusional. Not crazy, but like a cop will be arresting him for hopping on train cars or something, and he will try to be impressive and give the cop a cold reading. Of course, the cop is like, stop it what are you doing and not falling for it in the slightest. It also shows him giving readings to fellow hobos, and later trying to give a reading to another guy he is sharing a train car with. The guy is actually on his way to get a job at Grindle’s company funny enough.
Anyway, eventually Stan kills a cop (the first man he killed, aside from Pete; in the movie his body count is higher because he kills his dad, Pete inadvertently, then Grindle and the body guard). He then sees an ad Zeena has for a mail horoscope thing and goes to the address in the paper. She and her new man see what a mess he is and try to help. The give him what he needs to set up a palm reading act and buy him a bus ticket.
At some point he finds a carnival and goes to the man in charge. From here, it is like the movie, where the guy says they don’t need a mentalist or palm reader and is disgusted by this bum that smells like he pissed himself. That’s when the guy offers the “temporary” geek job.
In the movie, we don’t see how he has sunk so low. Aside from seeing that he has started drinking too much. In the movie, Stan seemed quick on his feet, so I would think even after all of that, he would have found a way for himself. In the book, not only so we get a look into how he sunk so low, but as said, the book also shows how he isn’t as smart as he thinks and based on Lilith’s chart he also seems to have some kind of disorder perhaps.
So I think the movie should have shown in some way, how he just wasn’t able to get back on his feet again.
The final scene in the movie, when he goes to ask for a job and the guy first turns him away, then offers him a seat and pours him a drink before then offering the geek job. Ugh, this seen is incredible! Specifically, Cooper’s acting here. He says yes, he knows what a geek is, and looks down. In those couple seconds, I thought he was going to find some last bit of pride-because he isn’t so far gone as to not realize what’s happening. But when the guy asks if that’s something he would be willing to do, Stan looks up and then says, “I was born to do it.” Followed by a tragic laugh that goes on to sound like a cry, masked as a laugh. Oh my gosh Cooper was so incredible right here! Showing the desperation, the hopelessness, the knowledge of how low he has come but agreeing to it anyway. Ugh, I seriously cannot praise this scene enough! So incredible!!
Smaller details on the “geek”
In the movie, there is a graphic scene early on with the geek basically biting the head off the chicken. In the book, it is said the geek just pretends to bite the chicken, he really is just cutting it with a razor blade. Were there times when real life geeks would truly bite the chickens? Maybe, it could be possible. But as far as the book is concerned, it is said they don’t actually bite and eat them.
In the movie, the geek escapes and Stan helps them find him. He had run into the tunnel of hell where Stan goes to get him. I can’t help but feel this was done very intentionally and has some symbolism here of Stan descending into hell and finding his own inner geek.
The Peabody House and the Murder/Suicide
In the movie, the first man and wife Stan goes to in person is a couple who lost their son in the war. Stan pulls it off, acting like he is in contact with the son. Later, we see the wife kill her husband and then herself. Thinking she is doing a good thing, because now they can be with their son, just like Stan said they would. This happens, but then nothing comes of it. Though I suppose it is just another reason why Stan needs to be on the run. It’s a great scene though, I just thought there would be something more with it but there wasn’t aside from Grindle hearing about it on the radio before he himself is killed by Stan.
This didn’t happen in the book. A big event that does happen before the Grindle con, is when he cons an older woman named Peabody who lost her daughter. They pull a lengthy and fairly elaborate con, convincing her her house is haunted and that her dead daughter is telling her she should give the house to the reverend (Stan is a reverend at this point) and she should go west, where they can be together without the interference of the evil spirit which is overtaking her house. And she does! The woman gives Stan her house, and he turns it into his church where he holds all his meetings and classes as well as living there.
Book or Movie
As always, the book provides so much more background with all the characters. Molly is someone that is in a good amount of the movie, yet she seems a bit one dimensional. Whereas in the book, we had a good feel for who she was. The book wasn’t gripping from start to finish, and I would say the movie was the same way. I never got bored with either, but I wasn’t on the edge of my seat the whole time. Both are a slow burn. I love a good slow burn though. With the movie, there is the drama that happens, but the big payoff comes in those last few minuites. Seriously, I can’t praise it enough. The whole 2.5 hours was worth it to get to that last scene. Not to say the first 2 hours and 20 minutes of the movie weren’t good, but like I said, it’s a slow burn. The book was the same though, slow burn, but then the very end I was like wow, did not see that coming together so beautifully and tragically.
I do love that the book literally starts and ends with the same thing. Whereas the movie starts with a teasing look into Stan’s past. Not that I mind that change per ce, I just really loved that the book did that.
I have my complaints with the movie, but it has so many amazing aspects to it, that it makes up for a lot of my complaints. The production design, the wardrobe, the cast, the directing. It really is an incredible movie. But it really is an incredible book! In the end, I think I would say I like the book better; however, I am more likely to watch the movie a second time than go and read the book a second time. If you liked the movie though, I highly recommend reading the book! It will fill in all the background the movie left out and you get an even better look into who Stan is, along with all the other characters as well.